After sleeping for a time insufficient to recover her Rhyuin– barely more than an hour– she had briefly rolled over to satisfy herself that the teenage mercenary sleeping in the cot next to her was no longer in immediate danger.
Once satisfied, she had put herself into a meditative trance. The purpose for the first hours was the most critical need, to finish her spiritual recovery and revive her distressed and starving Gedin and une. Since then she had been carefully mending the worst of the damage to Meadhbh and warding off invading microbes, using the life skills of her Maryahdil arts.
It had been years since she did so for such a purpose, or such a length of time. She regularly meditated, of course. She did it while refining new une, or to concentrate on their senses without her own getting in the way, or to commune with the local flora and fauna to understand the environment. And of course, at least once per day, she merged with her Gedin, the great tufted hawk which guarded her hitochin gate, in order to sustain it.
But those were always brief, not much different than taking a moment for a short conversation. It had probably been since her last labor, while birthing her daughter, that she turned away from her mortal vessel for hours on end. It was now approaching twenty four hours since she had begun the task.
Meadhbh’s Rhyuin needed to sustain her body on its own for the remainder of their time here, in preparation for the final leg of their journey tomorrow. She withdrew her control and sat up so she could watch this young warrior– younger than her own daughter– without using spiritual contact. The cabin interior was dark, but that didn’t matter a lot to her Gireidil eyes.
Such a pitiable child. The Osril authorities wouldn’t have faulted her for becoming distraught in her grief and acting out violently, but the way she had coldly hunted down the entire gang responsible for her parents’ deaths became too alien for them to understand. In the end, Rogan had captured and quietly smuggled her off-world, hiding her under Fionna’s command, so she could make use of her amply-demonstrated skills.
The exile was legal, secretly approved under his authority, but it would be politically untenable if the public came to know that an Imperial Lord had protected this ‘criminal’. If she was caught, it would take months to extricate her and it would lead to public spectacle and shame that she didn’t deserve.
Her own Gireidil heart understood Meadhbh’s reaction in a way no Osrin ever could. She had no objection to Rogan’s choice to protect her.
Once Nam was satisfied that the girl was stable, she set one of her une to keep watch over her, then exited the cabin.
The moon of Chald was one of the standard types, airless and white like the moons of Earth and Trin. With the rains fully gone, it was lighting up the forest beyond the fieldstone perimeter fence quite nicely. The temperature wasn’t too bad either, but she had to use a bit of flux arts to banish the spring night chill from her exposed skin.
Rogan was sitting near the fire. He had the teapot near the coals, keeping the contents warm. When he saw her approaching, he poured a cup for her.
“You’re well now, Lass?”
“As much as I can be,” she admitted. “It takes days to properly recover from spiritual exhaustion. But I’m in fighting shape, anyway.”
“How is Meadhbh?”
“She’ll be safe to transport. We could do it now, if we had to leave here.”
He nodded. She turned her attention to the woods beyond.
And frowned almost immediately. “What’s going on, out there?”
Fionna was striding toward them from her post at the perimeter gate. She looked at Nam’s face as she arrived, then stated what she could read there with a nod.
“Ye see it too, My Lady. I’m off to wake the men, then.”
“See what?” Rogan demanded sharply as Fionna dashed to the cabin.
“There’s two Ilidi units heading our direction,” Nam told him after she swallowed the one sip she would get of her tea. “The Gireidil warbeasts just began moving as well.”
The mercury lantern that had been illuminating the yard went dark with a flicker. Captain Koursh had ordered it extinguished. Nam quickly exercised Maryahdil techniques to adjust her eyesight to the darker conditions.
The returned to her vision almost immediately. Even though her Gireidil genetics were compromised by foreign genes, they still gave her the superior Gireidil vision that doubled the speed at which her technique worked.
She had the moonlight, her superior night vision and her flux senses, and that was normally a great advantage. But unlike the Osril criminals that she and Rogan might usually be against, the threats within this forest were equally equipped.
Koursh emerged with the two men in his otherwise female crew. His select team for this mission consisted of two married couples, because he believed they would interact better with Fiona’s all-female team.
Both wore hardened expressions as they arrived at the wall. Neither the young Yordj nor the elderly Agst would let themselves worry over their wives, Rillte and Hemme, currently patrolling beyond the perimeter. All of Koursh’s company had been forged in the furnace that was warfare on Cantaree. Even youthful, pretty Rillte had the heart of a grizzled veteran.
Nam smiled to herself about that. In their own way, these particular Osri were almost more Gireidil than the Gireid. She had herself good companions if it turned into a fight. She cast a brief prayer to whatever deity watched over them that their wives would stay safely distant from that fight, even though she knew they would join if they were close enough.
Her prized owl unen gave her stealth, but at this moment she almost wished she’d refined it into a night reconnaissance spirit instead. But her dove unen had better eyes than her living counterparts, so she would have to do. She pulled the feather totem containing that spirit and tossed it, commanding, “Scout, Ooe!”
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